Skip to comments.Man opens fire inside Knoxville church; one dead, at least five injured
Posted on 07/27/2008 12:27:38 PM PDT by Alex Murphy
Multiple people have suffered gunshot wounds in what witnesses describe as a mass shooting inside a church in West Knoxville Sunday morning.
The shootings happened at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church on Kingston Pike.
A witness who spoke to 10 News said police had arrived and one person was being detained at the scene.
A children's production of "Annie" was taking place as part of the normal Sunday service at the time of the shooting, the witness, who is a member of the church, said. The gunman walked into a packed sanctuary and opened fire.
The number of people shot and the extent of their injuries has not been confirmed, but the witness said he saw at least five people shot.
Church members heard a loud boom during the church service, which began around 10:15 a.m., the witness said. Several other loud booms followed, and the witness said the gunman seemed to be shooting randomly across a row of people. Two congregants tackled the gunman, he said.
Many people fled to the Second Presbyterian Church after the shooting, and that church was placed on lockdown, according to a 10 News crew at the scene. People have since been allowed to return to the Unitarian church building, where police are questioning witnesses.
Steve Drevik, a member of the TVUU Church spoke to media outside the church building.
He says the suspect is now in custody.
Drevik says the shooting happened during a regular service, as children of the church were performing music from Annie for parishioners.
A man with long blond hair, who appeared to be in his 40s, walked into the sanctuary and opened fiire with a shotgun, shooting indiscriminately.
At least six or seven people were hit by the gunfire. They have been transported to UT Medical Center. Two are believed to be in serious condition.
No children are believed to have been hit by the gunfire.
Some of the children were taken next door to Second Presbyterian Church for shelter.
Numerous KPD officers are on the scene.
Steve Drevik says the suspect isn't believed to have any connection to the church.
More information about the church can be found at their website: www.TVUUC.org
Sources say church members tackled the suspect, holding him until police arrived.
KPD says the call came in at 10:18 am. The first officer arrived at 10:21 am. The suspect was taken into custody at 10:22 am. Police believe he is the lone suspect.
KPD officials says Mayor Haslam has been made aware of the event, and a press conference will be held later today.
Becky Thompson with UT Medical Center confirms to NBC News that seven people were transported from the church to UTMC for medical treatment.
WBIR journalists on the scene are told that six of the seven individual transported to the hospital were victims of gunshot wounds. One of the seven transported suffered an ankle injury.
According to church member Steve Drevik, three congregants tackled the suspect, ending his attack. One of the three was longtime TVUUC member and UT History Professor, John Bohstedt.
Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam has issued a statement: "TODAY KNOXVILLE SUFFERED A TRAGEDY. OUR THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS ARE WITH THE VICTIMS AND THEIR FAMILIES AND THE CHURCH COMMUNITY."
Knoxville City Councilman Joe Hultquist tells WBIR that one victim in the church attack has died, and five others are in critical condition.
Church member Anne Strange says church members want the Knoxville community to know that congregant John Bohstedt, who helped tackle the gunman, was unharmed in the attack.
Dr. John Bohstedt spoke to WBIR's John Becker about the shooting. Bohstedt helped tackle the shooter, and hold him until police arrived. Bohstedt's own granddaughter was performing in the musical "Annie," that children were performing at the front of the sanctuary when the shooting began.
"This was a day the church was looking forward to for a long time and it turned into a nightmare," Bohstedt said. Bohstedt said the gunman had no connection to the church that he knows of, and he has no clue as to a motive.
"Just another crazy, random church shooting," added an emotional Bohstedt.
The Blount County Foothills Unitarian Universalist congregation will be holding an open gathering from 2-5 pm at the Habitat for Humanity Bldg at 1017 Hampshire Drive in Maryville (near Foothills Mall). The public and media are invited.
This is a special called gathering in response to the shooting.
Church member Amy Broyles was inside the church with her family at the time of the shooting.
She says she was with her toddler inside the church's glass-walled "quiet room" - set up for mothers and babies - at the back of the sanctuary, while her husband and other children were inside the church. One of her children was performing in the musical performance at the front of the sanctuary.
She says she heard a loud "boom," and looked out the glass to see her husband, mother in law and one of her children dive under a pew. She then looked to the side and saw an older man, perhaps 65 years old, raising what appeared to be a shotgun to his shoulder and firing into the church.
She then grabbed her baby and blocked the doorway to the quiet room in case the man were to attempt to get into the quiet room. She heard another gunshot or two, and then heard several men tackling the shooter right outside the quiet room door. One of the men was her husband, Jamie Parkey.
She then heard calls for everyone to get out of the sanctuary, so she and other women ran from the quiet room, and joined other church members making their exit from the church. She was able to locate her other children almost immediately.
On her way out, she had to step over one male victim - also just outside the quiet room - who appeared to be mortally wounded. Broyles identifies that victim as Greg McKendry.She also had to walk past several other gunshot victims. Many church members, including children were covered with blood splatters from the gunshot victims.
Broyles says that although she only heard a couple of gunshots, she saw many shotgun cartridges on the floor around the shooter after he was tackled, leading her to believe he came to the church with a lot of ammunition.
She says she was tremendously impressed with the calm, effective way that church members with medical training responded to the needs of the gunshot victims, treating them at the scene until help arrived.
She also praises KPD officers who responded, saying they showed great compassion and calm in the face of a chaotic situation.
I presume none of the “parishioners” had a gun.
God Bless the brave souls who tackled the gunman. The Flight 93 response is alive and well in America.
You might want to request that a mod pull your post.
Well, it's a shooting, it's crazy, it may or may not be random, but I'm not sure it was at a church.
Once I figure out why Annie was part of the regular Sunday service I will be able to tell if I am upset or not.
“A children’s production of “Annie” was taking place as part of the normal Sunday service at the time of the shooting,”
Yes, I wondered too...
I dont remember a manger scene or a crucifiction re-enactment...
But “The Son will come out/back tomorrow, Bet your bottom dollar”
Folks I don’t agree with the teaching of that church as such but some need to remember this. A sizable portion of the Founding Fathers of the United States followed many of that churches doctorines teachings. At least two were our first presidents. One was Washington. One even wrote their Bible. That mans name was Thomas Jefferson. They did not deserve this.
No - just those posts that quoted your original comment.
Apparently there are many “sickos” on this story today, where opinion is not valued, no matter what it is..
I also heard that the man who was killed, was trying to block the gunman from shooting at the kids. His family can be proud of his heroism.
It’s a sick person to start shooting during a children’s play taking place in a church. Prayers for everybody affected by this.
Prayers up for all affected by this tragedy.
(Leaving aside the question of to what extent a UU body can be referred to as a church.)
How often do you bring a gun to church?
If it were legal I would.
I’m a big believer of carrying everywhere. I don’t know, seems weird to me to carry a gun to church. Something doesn’t set right.
Police: 1 dead, 8 hurt in church shooting; suspect in custody
Gunfire erupted during play at Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church By Don Jacobs , Amy McRary , Frank Munger , J.J. Stambaugh
Originally published 11:01 a.m., July 27, 2008
Updated 04:08 p.m., July 27, 2008
Shooting at Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church Several people were shot with a gunman opened fire at the church around 10:18 a.m., Sunday.
A gunman opened fire at Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church this morning, shooting eight people with a shotgun, killing one, according to Knoxville Police Chief Sterling P. Owen IV.
Seven of the wounded were taken to the University of Tennessee Medical Center, according to spokeswoman Becky Thompson.
Five remain in critical condition this afternoon; one is listed as serious. Another was treated and released.
All were adults: four women and three men.
Another victim was trampled and was treated and released at a hospital, Owen said during a press conference this afternoon.
Church member Greg McKendry, 60, was shot and killed when he confronted the gunman during a childrens presentation of the musical, Annie Jr!
He was the first person he encountered, according to Owen.
Greg McKendry stood in the front of the gunman and took the blast to protect the rest of us, witness Barbara Kemper said.
Make sure everyone knows that Greg McKendry was a hero, a total hero, Taylor Bessette said of the man who has been his foster father just a few months.
The gunman was described as having no connection to the church and was taken into custody within minutes of the shooting, according to Owen, and no motive was immediately available.
The church is located at 2931 Kingston Pike just west of the University of Tennessee.
Police dispatchers received a report of the shooting at 10:18 a.m. and took a man into custody at 10:22 a.m.
The shooter, described as a white man with long blond hair, in his 40s, with a thin build, about 6 feet tall, was wearing jeans and a bloody T-shirt, according to church member Steve Drevik, 41.
He was carrying a 12-gauge shotgun and had a fanny pack with extra ammunition.
He will be charged shortly, Owen said.
The FBI is assisting in the investigation, Owen said.
He declined to release the suspects name but said he currently lives in the Knoxville area.
Asked about the children who were performing, Owen said the shooting was in sight of them and all the people shot were in the line of fire.
McKendrys foster son Taylor was a member of the cast, getting ready to take the stage and said the shooter was carrying a guitar case.
Church member John Bohstedt said in addition to the guitar case, the gunman carried a smaller case that could have been a photo bag. Bohstedt said the man took a shotgun out, walked to the back door on the right back corner of the sanctuary and took two shots,
Kemper said the gunman walked into the side of the sanctuary after firing one shot from a hallway.
She said the gunman was yelling hateful things and was wearing a red, white and blue T-shirt.
He looked like bad guy. Kemper said.
The gunman was shooting indiscriminately, Kemper said. She said at least four shotgun blasts were fired on the Second Presbyterian side of the church.
She said church members who were in the play, Bohstedt and Terry Uselton, jumped on the gunman and restrained him.
Members began telling McKendry to take a breath.
Kemper tried to comfort a little boy whose mother had been shot in the head. She said there was a handprint of blood on the back of the boyss shirt.
Religious Education Director Brian Griffin stepped forward and oversaw efforts to calm the crowd and talk to authorities, witness Ted Lollis said.
Everybody is shocked, Lollis said, but there was a lot of heroics.
After the shooting and after the gunman was restrained, all the members of the church left out the doors behind the front of the sanctuary.
Drevik said he saw three men and two women with gunshot wounds, described as shotgun pellets to the scalp.
The suspect was taken to KPDs headquarters on the third floor of the Safety Building downtown where he is being interviewed, according to Owen.
The church was full, police Lt. Jerry Armstrong said, although he could not estimate how many people were in the church.
The musical was a culmination of a summer theater workshop conducted by the Church Music Director, Vicki Masters.
According to Lollis, congregants were expecting the unexpected in the inter-generational service because it was a childrens performance.
Masters reportedly turned around with a look of horror on her face and started running towards the sounds.
Everyone was wrapped up listening to these kids because they were doing a great job, said witness Sheila Bowen, a retired nurse who delivered babies.
She said she heard six or seven shots.
Oh my God, they were so loud, she said.
At first she said she thought the loud noises might have been part of the play.
She said she heard a man say get out, get out of here.
She did not see the suspect because he was on the ground and a really strong hefty guy had him pinned down.
Leigh Ann Dickert, who lives next door to the church, said when she first heard the shots, she thought the church was having some kind of race and the screams were cheers.
When the cheering went on too long she said she realized they were screams. She looked out her window and saw people running through the parking lot.
Dickert said she went up to one of the parishioners who told her that a man came into the church with a shotgun concealed in a guitar case.
The man apparently walked up to another man in the back of the church, shot him point blank, right there and then opened fire on the crowd, she said.
The man was tackled when he paused to reload.
By early afternoon, about five police chaplains were on the scene, the Knoxville chapter of the American Red Cross was providing water, and witnesses continued to be questioned inside the church building.
Members who were not witnesses were being permitted to leave the grounds.
The Red Cross is providing counseling and meals to all the personnel that are there, congregation and emergency service workers, Knoxville Fire Department Capt. Brent Seymour said. KFD provides first-responder emergency services and sent three vehicles to the scene immediately. An on-call EMS worker was on the nearby Cumberland Avenue Strip, heard the call and went to the church as well, Seymour said.
The Red Cross is bringing in mental health workers for anyone who wishes to talk.
Shortly after 1 p.m., members of the Red Cross walked into the church with their arms filled with teddy bears. Bears are often used to comfort children.
The churchs minister, the Rev. Chris Buice, was on vacation in Asheville, N.C., and drove immediately back when he was notified of the shooting.
Greg McKendry we loved him, Buice said, his eyes filling with tears at the afternoon press conference.
We loved Greg McKendry, please pray for this congregation because we are grieving the loss of a wonderful man.
In a statement, Mayor Bill Haslam said, Today Knoxville suffered a tragedy. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families and the church community, Mayor Bill Haslam said in a statement.
A special meeting has been called at 6 p.m. Westside Unitarian Universalist Church, 616 Fretz Road in Farragut, to update members of the church on the events and help us deal with this tragedy, according to a church e-mail.
In an e-mail Bohstedt stated. As far as we know, this has nothing to do with the church. the production, personal conflicts or anything else. Please, lets not speculate. He asked, Let us all pray for the victims, including the children that were traumatized by this terrible event. Church leaders did a fine job of helping people come together. Blessings on us all- a very tragic day for our blessed community.
Carrie Niceley, 19, of Knoxville said she heard about the shooting when it was announced at her church, First Presbyterian.
She came to the church with a bouquet of flower picked from the First Presbyterian sanctuary.
We think a church should be more of a place for love, she said when asked about the shooting.
She said she knows members of the church and wants everyone to theyre in our thoughts and prayers.
Jefferson didn't write a Bible. He edited the KJV by deleting portions he felt he couln't agree. Mainly he took out the miracles. He just couldn't grasp a God of creation, a God of time and space, a God whose mysteries have always befuddled mankind.. He was a active member of an Episcopal church all his life. Apparently he found far more in which he agreed than disagreed. - Neither considered themselves UU.
The people that go to these churches are like Oprah. All paths lead.... They are all leftists who cannot see black and white, they have been blinded. No way a gun would be found anywhere near any of them. Too bad, perhaps some of the damage could have been stopped earlier.
I presume none of the parishioners had a gun.
How often do you bring a gun to church?
It happens more often than you'd thing. But, given the political proclivities of the UUA, it is unlikely any of these would be armed. Unitarian Universalist Association website on gun control
George Washington is open to debate some sources say yes sme say no. Deism was prevailent during the early years of our nation even amongst some of the more well known founders. Not saying I agree with that belief. I don’t.
I don't, but I know some of the members do. And frankly, I would expect some of them to respond more quickly than the cops on the premises.
John Adams was a Unitarian